'Bellies' imports address both ends of the floor

You can’t accuse New Westminster Salmonbellies’ general manager and president Dan Richardson of not going to extreme lengths to put his team over the hump.

With the Western Lacrosse Association’s 2019 season just a month away, Richardson continues to dial it up and bring in some highly-coveted talent.

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Following on the footsteps of last week’s announcement of the return of Kevin Crowley, New West announced this week the acquisition of the playing rights of two 25-year-old Ontario players, Austin Shanks and Darryl Robertson.

Both are members of the Rochester Knighthawks, plying different ends of the floor.

Shanks sits fourth in team scoring with 21 goals and 22 assists over 12 games.

A speedy defender, Robertson has contributed two goals and eight assists in 14 games.

“Both have been well-coached growing up in Whitby,” said Richardson of the duo. “They know how to play, they’re both good team guys.”

In fact, while their travels have been entwined throughout their young careers, Richardson said the move to acquire each’s rights, from their Ontario Major Series’ teams, was done individually. It wasn’t a case of of a package deal. It just worked out that way, said Richardson.

“They both wanted to come out west and help a team win the Mann Cup,” he said of the two righthanders. “It just happened that they played on the same team.”

Shanks was a first round selection of Rochester in 2017, earning his way onto the NLL All-Rookie team last season.

Both were part of Whitby’s Minto Cup championship win in 2013, where the Warriors defeated the New West juniors at Queen’s Park Arena.

That New West junior squad included Anthony Malcom and Justin Goodwin, while Alexis Buque was in net for Whitby.

Adding them to the lineup adds a hard-to-dismiss element of depth that Richardson says is necessary to get beyond the playoffs.

“It’s been proven time and again, you can’t have enough good players,” he noted. “These (moves) have really improved our depth. You’re going to get injuries, so you need guys who are good and ready to go. Our defence is very solid – with the likes of (Brett) Mydske, Mike Messenger, (Curtis) Hodgson, (Justin) Salt, (Reid) Mydske, (Brendan) Ranford, Quinn McKay… Robertson is as fast as a defender as you’ll see, and it allows us to put Malcom into a transition role.”

With the league a constant battle and players come in and out of the lineup fairly frequently during the first two months, that depth will come in handy. But Richardson said adding the three players this past week was more than just keeping up with the Joneses.

“This is about winning. We had a pretty good team that got swept (in the first round) last year. It happens – like Tampa Bay (in the NHL playoffs), you can’t really expect to ease up on the gas pedal. Each player on our team has the goal and expectation to win, to get in the Mann Cup.”

The regular season begins May 23, when New West launches its 130th season against Langley at Queen’s Park Arena.

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